McAtee: 2024 brings changes to Child Support Rules and Guidelines

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As we ring in the new year, the phones of family law attorneys around Indiana may begin ringing with clients inquiring about recent changes to how child support is calculated. Beginning Jan. 1, several notable amendments to the Indiana Child Support Rules and Guidelines went into effect. The following are some of the significant changes to be implemented.

A new methodological approach

The Weekly Support Schedule has been updated pursuant to the Rothbarth methodology, the basis of which is that the amount that a household spends on children can be determined by analyzing how the amount of money parents spend on themselves decreases as their number of children increases. This approach has been found to be more practical than the Engel methodology that the guidelines were formed under, which focused on the percentage that a household spent on food in relation to the number of children. The updates to the guidelines are based on recent economic data finding that intact families’ child-related spending was markedly higher than previous portrayed. Therefore, child support amounts will change according to the parents’ combined weekly income and number of children.

Goodbye to the 6% Rule

Previously, the uninsured health care expenses of a child were estimated to amount to 6% of the basic child support obligation. The 6% Rule is no longer part of the child support calculation, and ordinary uninsured health care expenses are no longer considered part of the controlled expenses for a child. To address a child’s uninsured health care expenses, parents are now directed to share those expenses according to their income shares. Court orders should specify which parent is responsible for the uninsured health care expenses. To request reimbursement or contribution from the other parent, the parent who pays for the uninsured health care expense must provide the other parent with documentation relating to the insurance claim and the expense paid. If the request is not made within 30 days of receipt, the paying party may be waiving reimbursement. If a parent fails to secure insurance preapproval for a procedure or a health care provider, the court has discretion to exclude those claims from reimbursement.

The new guidelines also note that while the father of a child is required to pay at least half of the birth expenses, it is within the court’s discretion to order the father to pay an amount over 50%. The amendments also include that now, postpartum, postnatal and other necessary and reasonable expenses associated with the child’s birth are subject to reimbursement.

Calculating child support for multiple children with different numbers of overnights

It often occurs that a family has more than one child, but the children spend different numbers of annual overnights with the noncustodial parent. In the past, this has resulted in family law attorneys exercising various approaches to attempt to calculate an equitable and agreeable number for child support when the overnights are not the same for all children included in a child support worksheet. Now, the Child Support Guidelines provide clear instructions as to how to approach those situations, consistent with Blanford v. Blanford, 937 N.E.2d 356 (Ind. Ct. App. 2010). For each scenario of different sets of overnights, the parenting time credit for the total number of children should be calculated using the same number of overnights. Then, the average of the dollar amounts for the overnight parenting time credits is calculated. The averaged parenting time credit is then entered on Line 7 of the worksheet for the noncustodial parent.

Deviations from the Child Support Worksheet

The Child Support Rules still amount to a rebuttable presumption that the calculation according to the guidelines is the correct amount of child support. Subject to court approval, parents maintain the flexibility to agree on a different support figure, but the amendments to the guidelines are clear that a specific reason for the deviation must be provided. Even in instances where there is a $0 support order, the Child Support Worksheet must still be included with the Child Support Order, along with the reason for the deviation. The updated Child Support Guidelines provide new examples of specific reasons for a deviation from the worksheet amount, including if the parents share controlled expenses for the children or if a parent is on work release or another comparable program that includes fees that the parent must pay. Previous examples, such as one parent purchasing school clothes for the children or a parent’s work-related travel expenses, have been removed.

New year, new worksheets

The new online child support calculator with these updates was available beginning Jan. 1. With these helpful amendments and clarifications to the Child Support Rules and Guidelines, family law attorneys are well equipped to better serve their clients entering this new year.•


Nicole Makris McAtee is a family law attorney in the Martinsville office of Connell Michael LLP. She can be reached at [email protected]. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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